12 Pricing Strategies Every eCommerce Business Owner Should Have Known

12 Pricing Strategies Every eCommerce Business Owner Should Have Known

Pricing is as simple as doubling the cost of goods sold. Or is it?

I say no, but not because setting the right prices is complicated. Sometimes you can just multiply numbers and earn good margins. But in order to boost your profit while impacting customers’ decisions, there’s essentially an art and science behind pricing.

This article will explore 12 ultimate pricing strategies to boost your sales and profit. Ready to find out?

1. Discount

Old as the ocean, nowadays, the discounting approach has dominated nearly the entire world of eCommerce.

If spending money is an unavoidable pain shoppers must go through to buy something, an offer can ease that pain. The lesser the pain, the more likely the purchase.

This works particularly well with the price-conscious group of customers. It helps you clear out slow-moving inventory, attract lots and lots of traffic to your store, and undoubtedly influence people’s decision-making.

But why shouldn’t you implement discounts store-wide, all-time? Well, here are two reasons why:
  1. Overdoing it may signal negativity to your customers. “Are they really that low?” Gradually, your customers will hesitate to buy your items at regular prices.
  2. Sweet discounts can help round up your revenue. But if the discount costs are higher than the revenue you make from offering the discounts, you’re indeed hurting your profit. We’ve discussed this in length in our article revenue obsession and its harmful impacts.

With that being said, discounted prices can be a strategic leverage that helps you scale up your business successfully. But in order for you to make a profit from offering discounts to your shoppers, you need to be in the knowing zone of all your products’ profits and losses.

For instance, if you run a Shopify store, go to TrueProfit’s Product Analytics to see your profit margins for each item. Make sure that you only offer discounts for products with a thick margin.

Get a clear understanding of your earnings and expenses before these offers eat into your profit

2. Charm Pricing

Ever noticed sometimes you tend to treat differently between an $8.99 item vs a $9.00 one? The $8.99 product “feels” much cheaper, despite the fact that they’re just 1 cent apart.

Well, you’re not the only one.

This phenomenon is call “the left-digit effect” (often called “charm pricing”), and it happens because our human brain processes $8.99 as $8.00.

Researchers Thomas and Morwitz concluded in their study: “Nine-ending prices are perceived to be smaller than a price one cent higher when the leftmost digits of the prices differ (e.g., $3.00 to $2.99).” Note that charm pricing doesn’t work if the left-most digits are the same (e.g., $3.60 to $3.59).

Knowing this, you can reduce one cent from a round number so it now ends in 9 or 99. For example, instead of selling a shirt at $40, make it $39.99. That way, customers are more likely to find it attractive than something… forty-ish.

Look how Komono prices their watches: Every single product on their online store is priced with nine-ending numbers.

pricing strategies
Komono’s charm pricing: prices end with 9

3. Premium pricing

Look at Tiffany & Co., Loui Vuitton, Apple. Why would customers want to buy a $500 item when they can just look for a $50 alternative on Amazon? With the competitive pricing war everywhere, shouldn’t those “premium brands” be dethroned?

Yet they stand tall and proud. Despite their insanely expensive prices, shoppers still order from them. Why?

Simply put, pricing is also branding. By pricing their products higher than the average market, brands position themselves as luxurious, prestigious, or exclusive. Customers don’t just buy products, they buy those feelings and status.

And though unstated, high prices often signal quality and superiority.

tiffany & co. high prices
Tiffany & Co.’s premium pricing

Here’s an inspiring story I’ve read from the book The Psychology of Persuasion (Dr. Robert Cialdini). There’s a jewelry shop selling to travelers. Among the items, one piece just doesn’t sell. The owner, out of frustration, asked her assistant to cut the price in half. However, the assistant misunderstood her boss, thus doubling the price.

What do you think would happen?

The jewelry, priced twice as normal, was sold out.

That given, please don’t even think of premium pricing without having a decent product. People can be easily tricked, but not twice. And when the trust is gone, you know what’ll happen next.

4. Slightly different prices for similar products

Are you familiar with the paradox of choice? Too many options can be demotivating to consumers.

What happens if shoppers land in your store and see dozens of products in the same niche at presumably similar prices? Chances are they’ll be paralyzed and postpone making a decision, a no-no for any eCommerce business.

How can you fix that? Try slightly adjusting prices.

According to new research from Yaleif two similar items have slightly different prices, consumers are more likely to take actual actions, rather than deferring decision.

That small change also shifts shoppers’ focus from “Should I buy at all?” to “Which one should I buy?” eliminating a mental obstacle for you.

For example, if an item is $28.50, another item should be $27.99. Not a big difference in value, but it means something psychologically.

5. Rounded prices

We’ve talked about the power of the left-digit effect (eg. $9.99), could it imply that a round number like $10 should be avoided? Not always.

In fact, round prices can come in handy in emotion-driven industries like fashion.

Research by Kuangjie Zhang and Monica Wadhwa showed that since rounded numbers are more fluently processed (easy to understand, remember, require an effortless judgmental process), they encourage reliance on feelings.

In other words, rounded numbers “feel right”, as long as the purchase is driven by feelings.

Look at The Modern Shop: Rounded prices give off an effortless, comfortable feeling across the whole store.

the modenn shop uses rounded pricing
The Modern Shop’s rounded prices

6. Precise prices

The opposite is also found to be true. For products that require logical thinking like technology or automobile, non-rounded prices appear to work better.

As a customer’s mind temporarily switches to rational processing, a rounded price (like $95) now seems made up.

Precise prices (like $93.49), on the other hand, imply a greater level of knowledge and; therefore, can be seen as informative of the true value of the item, as suggested by researchers from Columbia University.

So if your store focuses on rationality purchases, consider adding some cents to your prices. Look at how BioLite sets prices for their products.

biolite uses precise prices
BioLite’s precise (non-rounded) prices

7. Price Anchoring

People used to think prices were absolute. In fact, price is relative, meaning your perception of $1,000 is “reasonable” if the product is sitting next to a $5,000 item but “expensive” if the neighbor one is $200. This effect is called Anchoring.

Anchoring is our tendency to subconsciously rely on the first piece of information offered when making decisions.

You could have heard about the Williams-Sonoma bread maker case study. After much consumer research, the company launched a bread maker for $275 but saw only tepid sales. In response, they introduced a better functioning model and doubled the price. Immediately, sales took off. But not the premium model, it’s the $275 whose sales skyrocketed!

As explained by The Wall Street Journal, the first bread maker of Williams-Sonoma was a brand-new product in the market at the time. There was nothing to compare it to, so there was no reference to tell if $275 was actually a good price. The later model changed that. Posing as a slightly better product at a significantly higher price, it made the $275 item seem like a great deal.

You could achieve the same result by placing a “premium product” beside your ordinary items. Look how William Henry’s $750 bracelet seems like a fair deal next to a $2995 one.

William Henry's price anchoring
William Henry’s anchoring pricing technique

8. Bundle

Let’s say you’re looking for a pair of shoes. There are the sneakers you like, priced at $63, but you also need a shoe care kit which normally prices $10. Then there’s a bundle offering both products at $69.

That’s a win-win deal where you can save a percentage on each item, while the seller can easily increase their Average order value.

Now, the secret for successful bundles is relevance: Your bundled items have to be complementary or like-minded to create enough motivation for customers, or else they’ll stick with individual purchases. Simply bundling random items not only leads to failure but also signals unprofessional practice.

Look how Soundtoys offer their Effect Rack. This bundle combines 21 individual items but offers a much more attractive price.

Soundtoys's bundle
Soundtoys’s bundle

However, in order for the product bundles to convert well, the individual items you categorize in your bundles have to be relevant and bring value to your customers’ shopping experience. 

If you’re a Shopify store owner, to see which products you should sell in bundles, go to TrueProfit’s Bundle Analytics. Herein, you can see which products your customers most buy together.

eCommerce pricing strategies
Group the products that are most frequently bought together under bundles and offer them to your customers

Get to know your best bundles!

Instantly know your most frequently bought together products to cross-sell & boost your AOV effectively!

See Your Best Bundles

9. Pay-what-you-want

Pay-what-you-want (PWYW) pricing is simple: You let your customers decide how much they pay for the products. Payment can be higher or lower the regular price, and there may be a suggested price.

Wouldn’t it hurt your revenue? It may, in many cases. The fact that it’s so easy to underpay something makes this idea intimidating to many store owners. Why bother trying if it does more harm than good?

Because whoever dares to implement pay-what-you-want strategy must be really confident in their products, and that confidence conveys. More importantly, PWYW is a traffic magnet, far better than any kind of advertising. This, in turn, will lead to sales and can possibly recover your loss in average order value.

In 2007, Radiohead released their In Rainbows album and chose PWYW pricing. In the end, they earned more money from the digital sales of that album than the total digital sales of all their other albums combined.

But that’s easier said than done. To success with PWYW, Psychology Today recommends you use this strategy selectively:

  • For last minute sales to fill capacity otherwise empty (hotels, airlines) or to clear up slow-moving inventory.
  • When customers already has personal attachment to your business.
  • When charity is concerned.

Just remember: Always provide a based price as an anchor for customers. If people have an idea of a “reasonable price”, they’re likely to stick near it.

10. Loss leading

Loss-leading pricing works when customers are attracted to your store by a desirable discounted product and then also buy additional items on the way out.

Much like the pay-what-you-want mechanism, a loss-leading strategy uses a traffic magnet to pull shoppers, in this case, a heavily discounted item or free gift.

One indispensable element of this pricing strategy is what comes afterward. Once they’re in the store, you can then adopt a whole range of tactics to encourage more items sold, thus increase your store Average order value (AOV).

11. Break it down

Imagine you’re considering subscribing to an online course. Which one do you think is a better deal:

  1. An $84/month subscription
  2. A $1,000/year subscription

A normal human being would go for $84/month, although both options are basically the same. Whatever value it is, $84 sounds much lower than $1000.

That’s how you reframe a big number into a smaller equivalence (monthly, daily). That framing influences people to perceive a lower overall price, according to research by Gourville.

Dropified's pricing strategy
Dropified emphasizes monthly prices even for annual plans

What if your products can’t be broken down into daily equivalence? Gourville also proved that the same effect could be achieved by comparing your price to a petty cash expense, such as a cup of coffee.

Take this previous online course as an example: “If you can afford this cup of coffee at $3/day, you can afford this course at $2.8/day.”

12. Change how the price looks

If you’re reaching this point of the article, you’re unlikely to be surprised by another psychological hack. But even the most trivial area, like visual display, can affect how customers perceive your price.

Our human brains might be developed, but when it comes to differentiating between visual and numerical size, the line is blurred.

Research by Coulter shows that shoppers will perceive the sale price to be smaller (better deal) if it’s printed in a smaller font size.

In another study by Cornell University, diners spent significantly more when the dollar sign ($) was left out. This is due to the strong correlation between the dollar sign ($) with spending money.

Last but not least, prices containing more syllables seemed drastically higher to shoppers, according to another paper by Coulter in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.

Look at the following price structures. Which one feels lower to you?

  • $1,890
  • $1890

Although both are the same in value, the bottom structure feels less costly. How? Because the brain verbally processes the first number: “One thousand eight hundred and ninety,” whereas the second is “eighteen ninety”.

It doesn’t matter if no one reads it aloud. Your brain subconsciously encodes the auditory version anyway.

So keep your pricing display as simple as possible.

Final Words

This puts an end to our article about eCommerce pricing strategies. I truly hope you found something interesting.

As I stated earlier, setting prices is not complicated. But pairing your pricing with human psychology is never an easy task. Some of these pricing strategies will work well for your store, some may not. The real answer only shows up once you’ve done enough testing.

Again, all information in this article is based on academic research and might/might not be expanded to your specific eCommerce scenario. Now it’s your turn to experiment, and don’t forget to come back and update us on what you’ve found.

Discover what proper profit-tracking looks like at trueprofit.io

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